Are you addicted to tea? Oh, phooey.

I have to admit that I find it a bit tiresome the way people toss around the word “addiction” so casually these days, often in situations where it simply doesn’t fit. Yeah, you might like chocolate or baseball or anime a whole lot, but it’s highly unlikely that you’re addicted to any of them, at least not given my understanding of what addiction is, as presented way back when, during my school days.

Addicted to Tea? (Photo source: YouTube screen capture)

Addicted to Tea? (Photo source: YouTube screen capture)

My notion of an addiction to something is whether said thing causes a dependency that results in withdrawal symptoms when you no longer have access to it. But not wanting to trust my recall of a concept first presented to me decades ago, I sought out a proper definition of the term. Sez the good people at Merriam-Webster, addiction is a “compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal.” Which is pretty much how I remembered it, by golly.

So, about that tea addiction. Is there such a thing? I have to admit that I never gave this much thought until I saw a recent article from The Economist that discussed the notion of tea addiction. As the article notes, patrons of “ataya” (tea) cafes in the African country of Sierra Leone may drink up to ten cups a day of the strong gunpowder (green) tea that’s favored there, and at least one government official there is banging his drum about the addictive potential for this sort of thing.

Which sounds like making a mountain out of a molehill, if you ask me (nobody ever does). It also seems to me that anyone who talks about tea addiction might actually be talking about addiction to that compound that draws so many people to tea and certain other beverages – caffeine. Given the definition above, I could see that one might rightly say that they were addicted to caffeine, though it hardly seems as insidious as certain other types of addiction.

Whether one can actually be addicted to tea or is merely addicted to the caffeine that most tea contains might just be a matter of semantics. Since I don’t pretend to any kind of authority on the matter I’ll leave it to the reader to decide for themselves.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

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